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The HISD Foundation will receive a $750,000 grant over the next three years from the Fondren Foundation and a $50,000 grant over the next two years from the Simmons Foundation to support the Apollo 20 project.
HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said, “I am so pleased that the Houston community has been so supportive of the Apollo 20 programs. Turning around struggling schools is not easy or quick work, and I thank the Fondren and Simmons families for their confidence in our ability to forever change these schools and the lives of the children who attend them.”
The grants from the Fondren and Simmons Foundations to the HISD Foundation bring total private donations for the Apollo 20 Project to $2.37 million, so far.
HISD Board President Paula Harris said, “We appreciate the Fondren and Simmons families for their gracious gift in support of the Apollo 20 program. It is an investment that will reap great dividends through the success of our students.”
James Calaway serves as chairman for both the HISD Foundation and the Apollo Oversight Committee. He said, “Apollo 20 is an education initiative of national importance. Without the generous support of important foundations like the Fondren and Simmons foundations, along with many other supporters, we would not have the resources needed to support the intensive effort at education reform that is Apollo.”
The Apollo 20 Project began in the fall at five middle schools and four high schools, where students are benefitting from a longer school year, longer days and intensive 2-on-1 math tutoring. Apollo students who are below grade level in math or English Language Arts spend double the standard amount of time in those classes.
Midway through the school year, students who are part of the Apollo 20 project to turn around struggling schools are showing significant academic progress. Based on unit assessments, student progress has increased 25.6 percent to 40.7 percent on recent high school tests. On the middle school level, progress has increased 21.9 percent to 32.5 percent on the cumulative exam.
In addition, students at Apollo schools report that there is a safer climate that is more conducive to learning. The data bears this out. Disciplinary suspension rates are down at Apollo schools and student attendance rates are up. Because of the extended school year and a class day that is an hour longer than other HISD schools, Apollo students have spent 17.3 percent more time learning than last year.
In the fall of 2011, eleven elementary schools will be added to the project bringing the total number of schools up to 20. Unlike their secondary school counterparts, the Apollo elementary schools will not have an extended school year or longer school days. But they will offer the same math tutoring model for fourth-graders and offer Saturday school for students who need the most help in math and/or reading.
The $29 million Apollo initiative is funded by a combination of government grants and private donations. This year the Apollo initiative earned the endorsement of the Greater Houston Partnership, which is the city’s largest business advocacy organization.